US (FL): Growing vertically since 1994

The hydroponic system is being used in schools, prisons, small farms and gardens, and on islands in the Caribbean. “The whole thing was to save space and energy,” said Tim Carpenter, the Florida Association of County Agriculture Agents’ Marion County outstanding agriculturist in 2017.

Trays of lettuce, broccoli, spinach, rosemary, and three types of mint seedlings float in an orange kiddie pool filled with water and dotted with pink, blue, and green cartoon mermaids behind Francis Marion Military Academy.

A few feet away, pairs of students in matching black shirts and tan cargo pants dump blocks of coco fiber into round blue storage tubs. As water is added to the tubs, students massage the blocks, made from coconut husks, until they resemble fluffy dark-brown soil. This process is called rehydration, which prepares the fiber to be placed into a VertiGro hydroponic growing system that promises greater yields in less time with fewer resources.

Tim Carpenter said he developed and patented VertiGro in 1994 after he realized he could not make money using old hydroponic methods. Now, the system of stackable pots is used in schools, prisons, small farms, gardens and Caribbean islands.

Read more at the Ocala Star-Banner (Katie Pohlman)

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